I’ve just gotten out of a long hot shower where I’ve been treating my bronchitis with steam inhalation and my sore muscles with the shower massage heads. The master shower that does everything in this house was one of the selling points when Tommy and I decided to purchase it three years ago. When I go to move, I’m going to have to find something that has similar features. I’m spoiled. I was standing there with rivulets of hot water splashing down my sides and I started to sing the first act finale of Sunday in the Park with George to myself. I got to ‘arrangements of shadows’ and burst into tears and couldn’t stop for a while. Weird emotional jags usually means its time to do some processing so down I sit to do some writing and puzzle things out.
I came home from the Caribbean, launched into rehearsal for two shows at once and, of course, developed yet another viral bronchitis within 36 hours. I had to slow down a bit last week so as to not get too far behind the 8 ball and I’m on the mend, but the post viral inflammatory cough remains and I am still very tired and achy. Thank god for DayQuil and NyQuil. They keep me going. Monday is my hardest day stamina wise at work and I made it through without too many problems so I should be good for the rest of the week. And, I’m in bed before 8:00 so I should get plenty of sleep. (This is an invitation for me to wake up at 2:30 and be unable to get back to sleep but hope springs eternal).
The first show is Tosca at the opera. I’m usual third nobody from the left in the chorus (and I’m just fine with that at the opera). It’s not a big chorus show so rehearsal commitments aren’t arduous and it’s not a particularly big sing. There’s a bunch of supernumerary work in this one but I’m leaving that to the younger and more energetic folks. Two more music rehearsals this week, than moving into staging.
The second is Man of La Mancha at Virginia Samford Theater. I’m the Captain of the Inquisition (read jailer) which means I start the whole thing out by throwing Cervantes into jail and then I show up again at the end to get him back out of the dungeon. Again, not difficult. I’m the only member of the cast that doesn’t spent the whole 90 minutes of the show on stage. We were doing exercises on Friday night to get the rest of the cast to hate me and everything I represent. Kind of a cross between Zimbardo’s Stanford Prison Experiment and the last sequence of Suddenly Last Summer. Uncomfortable, either way. This one is going to be good. It’s only running two weekends rather than the usual three so I suggest getting tickets now.
Now back to my moodiness, two things coming together I think. The first was going to see Sunday in the Park with George at Birmingham Southern College on Saturday night. It’s a show that’s always spoken to me. It premiered at the end of my senior year of college and, while I was too poor to get to New York to see the original production, I was able to devour the LP, discuss it ad nauseam with theater friends, and eventually see the original via Great Performances on PBS. I’ve always had an affinity for Sondheim. He writes from the perspective of the alienated outsider peering in the window at the party and I, like most gay men, completely understand all the nuances of that point of view. George, the protagonist, is the quintessential Sondheim hero, striving, dispassionate, aloof, focused to the point of obsession. Sound familiar? When the first act ends with the gorgeous chorale as Seurat assembles his masterpiece from the fragments he has been collecting and the audience is taken on a audio/visual journey of genius at work, I always tear up. This week, I was more than tearing.
What did it to me? I think it was actually an earlier scene in the play. When George and his mistress Dot realize they are at an irreconcilable impasse and part to the song We Do Not Belong Together. As I was watching the scene, I was smacked between the eyes. I always knew I was George but it had never occurred to me that Tommy was Dot. As they had their final arguments, tapes of any number of the fights the two of us had over the years unspooled through my memory and limbic system. The dynamics were identical. And just like George loses Dot, I have irrevocably lost Tommy. It’s a death rather than a departure but the end result is the same. Our A number one cause of conflict was my emotional remoteness and his constant need for presence that I didn’t always know how to fulfill.
I’m probably still on a bit of downhill run from the cruise as well. Someone once asked me why gay men go on cruises and other such group vacations together. It’s really mainly about connection and reaffirmation of a tribal identity. It’s about creating a space where behavior that may be looked down on by the straight world is not merely tolerated, but celebrated. We all get together, let our inner butterflies out for a time, recharge the batteries and then go back to our caterpillar existences for a while long, ready to face those challenges as we know there are others who have our back and like us the way we are. Over the years that I’ve been taking these kinds of trips, it’s been interesting to see the changes in the hospitality industry itself and how it relates to a LGBT charter. Twenty years ago, there was deep suspicion and it was hard to book the best properties or staff. Now, cruise staff fight to get assigned to those weeks. Gay men, as outsiders, treat staff courteously and with respect. Staff are invited to participate in the party. We tip well. And, most importantly, no children.
This has been a bit heavy so I better tell a somewhat light hearted story tonight. I was reminded of this one by something Amy Light had posted about what’s a food you hate that everyone else seems to love. So this is the tale of why Andy does not eat bananas. I used to eat bananas with abandon, like any good American middle class child. In Seattle in the winter, it was one of the few fruits you could get before the days of widebody air shipping of produce all over the world. Anyway, I need to take you back to the early days of Andy and Steve, I think spring of 1989 or 1990.
I inherited my father’s GI tract. It’s very finicky. It gets upset easily. It doesn’t like strange water in particular. Over the years, I have learned how to beat it into submission with a couple of medications but it still will get the best of me from time to time. For some reason, every time I go to Los Angeles, it gets set off. This has been happening since I was teenager and there’s usually been at least a day on every visit when it wants nothing more heavy duty than Ginger Ale.
Steve was an LA boy so, when we got together, we went to LA fairly routinely to see his friends. On this particular trip, we decided we wanted to go to Universal Studios to take the back lot tour. We’d both done it in the past, but never together. So we got up early so as to be there when it opened and get an early tram. I was queasy coming up the hill from the parking lot and told Steve that I didn’t want to eat anything. Steve, who never missed a meal, was sure I would fall over in a dead faint if I didn’t have something to eat, so he bought me a banana at the snack bar and stood there to make sure I ate it. I ate it alright. Five minutes later, my stomach rejected it mightily. We were in the middle of the ticket plaza. There was no restroom. All I could do was lean over the parapet and let the remains of the banana fly off the scenic vista and into the flowerbed forty feet below, much to the amusement and consternation of the other tourists hiking up the walk. Steve was mortified. But he did learn an important lesson. He never again force fed me anything if I said I wasn’t feeling well. My nausea centers also learned a lesson. Banana bad. I really haven’t been able to eat one since.